Got a call today from an enterprising TIME magazine writer, asking about bailing out of KC-135 tankers. Last month DOD issued a report on a KC-135 in Kyrgyzstan from last year, No survivors. Turned out the aircraft was heavy and got into some severe gyrations and the tail section came off and the plane then plunged. Reporter, one Mark Thompson asked if I knew that parachutes had been taken out of the aircraft quite a while ago. No, I wasn’t aware of it. DOD had told him noone had ever bailed out of a KC-135, but then he discovered the 46ARS website about the night myself and three crew mates jumped from one and he wanted to talk not so much about that night, but what did I think of the decision to remove parachutes for financial reasons. Told him successful use of a parachute in a tanker is a very rare thing, but it’s nice to have the option and it reminds me of sending various ground vehicles into combat without being armored. Funny.
Meanwhile I am now wondering about the so-called Berkut special police in Ukraine. They were disbanded sometime back and there were rumors that the Russians were giving former Berkut members passports into Russia. I’ve learned (one source only) that the Berkut in Ukraine were “descended from an elite force in Soviet times.” Can’t find anything along those lines yet. The Berkut never was legally published in the USSR (Russia was a member of the Soviet federation at the time of publication in the U.S.)
Further, I’ve learned there was a Berkut aircraft: The Airplane: The Sukhoi S-37 Berkut, Golden Eagle, is an experimental concept model that first flew on 25 September 1997. The aircraft was developed by Sukhoi to explore the concept of forward swept wings. The advantages of forward swept wings have been known since World War II and include improved performance in the transonic region as well as reduced overall drag, improved maneuverability and better landing and take-off performance. The problem was the structural characteristics of the wings. Normal structures would flex under loading which would increase the angle of attack of the wing tip, causing eventual wing structural failure. This is called structural divergence. To counteract this characteristic, initial forward swept wing designs utilized extreme wing stiffness, which tended to counteract some of the advantages of the feature. Modern advanced composite materials offer the engineer the possibility to tailor wing structure to eliminate the structural divergence. The Grumman X-29 was developed in 1984 in response to a Department of Defense proposal. The X-29 proved the feasibility of the concept and provided information to be used in future manned and unmanned combat aircraft.
In an ongoing effort to develop new state of the combat aircraft, the Sukhoi design bureau developed the S-37. The X-29 was a smallish airplane, being based on fuselage components from the F-5. The S-37 is a much larger aircraft, utilizing as many of the components of the Su-22 and Su-27 as possible. While the “S” designation indicates the experimental purpose of the prototype, Sukhoi have recently given the Berkut the designation of Su-47 in an effort to generate some production sales. To date, no sales have resulted and in the current world situation, probably none will. In any case, it is a very interesting airplane and may represent the shape of things to come.
Why am I thinking about berkut stuff? Because my novel The Berkut is coming back into print. Will provide the exact date when I know. First published in 1987.